In light of this week’s Torah parashah in Leviticus 11 about what God considers clean and unclean I thought I would share a question that was emailed to us about the common misconception of Peter’s vision in Acts 10, and the answer for all coming from the common Christian mindset.
When it comes to God’s instructions on how to draw near to Him by being undefiled in our life we know that God is continually bringing us to live more sanctified and holy in our life (not less) and to be more purified as a bride without spot or blemish prepared to meet the bridegroom when he comes. Since God does not change and he has instructed us that eating unclean foods is not only defiling but also an abomination to him (Lev. 11), we cannot surmise that the revelation given to Peter is going to undermine God’s word which is established forever. What it did intend to undermine and break Peter free from was the wrong paradigm of man-made laws… as the concept of the Jews of that day was that Gentiles were unclean and that by eating with them or even going into their homes that one would be defiled and thereby unfit to go to the temple on holy days to pray and offer their offerings. God was disclosing to Peter that this was not in line with his character of love as many of the Lost House of Israel had defiled themselves and were living as Gentiles among the nations and that He did not intend for that to keep us from witnessing the good news that Messiah had come and fulfilled prophecy and to share his gospel of peace to the world, that the world through him might be saved.
Remember that in Matt. 5:17-18 Yeshua said that he came “not to abolish the law but to fulfill” (the word fulfill is “playroo” in the greek which means to fully preach and live out!) and he also said that not one jot or tittle would be removed from the law until Heaven and Earth pass away. In fact, the New Testament definition of sin in 1John 3:4 is that “sin is the transgression of the Torah”… therefore to say that God is asking us to transgress his law is to say that God is asking us to sin (God forbid anyone should suggest such a thing). Notice that Peter’s reply to eat unclean animals, which were simply symbols of unclean people in the dream, is “no way, absolutely not, I have never eaten food that was unclean”. Now this vision was quite a few years after Yeshua’s ascension and if Yeshua was going to promote doing away with the law and eating unclean meats he would have set that example when he was walking with his disciples and teaching them. But notice how nothing had changed and that Peter had never eaten anything unclean.
The actual context of the passage is that Cornelius, a Roman army officer, although a “God fearer” would have been considered unclean as a Gentile to Peter as a devout Jew but God wanted Peter to to go to Cornelius and to minister the truth to him without misgivings as verse 20 says in Acts 10. It is always good Biblical hermeneutics to read and interpret any passage in the whole context of God’s word so that we do not add to the word of God or subtract from it.
Hebrews 13:8 tells us that Messiah is the same yesterday, today and forever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.”
God’s people must be holy just as God is holy. One of the identifying signs of being called and set apart from other peoples by God is to avoid eating unclean flesh.
Lev 20:23-26 says ‘And you shall not walk in the statutes of the nation which I am casting out before you; for they commit all these things, and therefore I abhor them. ‘But I have said to you, “You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples. ‘You shall therefore distinguish between clean animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves abominable by beast or by bird, or by any kind of living thing that creeps on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. ‘And you shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.
Ezekiel criticized the priests for their failure to teach the people the difference between the clean and the unclean.
Ezekiel 22:26:Her priest have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and the profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean and have hid their eyes form my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
God gave these unclean meats instructions in the Old Testament for our instruction then, now today and forever to follow.
The origins of animals being used symbolically to represent people…
Animals have always been symbols of different nations in Bible prophecy and the earliest refrences to this originate from The Book of Enoch, which Peter was very familiar with having studied it and memorized numerous passages from, (and from which he incorporates various material and themes in his writing of First and Second Peter).
We see the first use of animals being used in the Book of Enoch describing the early forefathers of the nations… In fact it was probably Enoch chapter 88 that Peter had been reading and meditating upon when he had his vision of the animals being lowered in the sheet representing him taking the message of Messiah even to the unclean nations!
In Enoch 88, Enoch is seeing the future deluge in vision with symbols and types foreshadowing what is to come. God has often used symbolic language to reveal future prophetic events… and with Enoch, Daniel and Ezra we see him use animals as symbols of people groups and nations to come. In Enoch 88:12 the white cow which became a man and went out of the ship is obviously Noah and the three cows with him are his three sons, Shem represented by the white cow, Yephet by the red cow, and Ham by the Black Cow. (notice the white cow of Shem is the Priestly line from Noah who is also described as a white cow, while the other brothers are represented by other colors such as red and black).
In verse 15 all the different kinds that are assembled together represent the Tower of Babel. In verse 18, when they begin to bite each other, that is when Nimrod the mighty hunter Lorded over the descendants of Ham and began to kill off the descendants of Yapheth and Shem. It was during this time that the white cow (Abraham) was called forth from the land of Nimrod (Ur of the Chaldeans) and brings forth offspring from three different women: Ishmael son of Hagar is described as a wild-ass, and the white cow describes Isaac the son of Sarah, and the many wild asses the sons of Keturah later. White always represents purity and the true followers of God. God sees the future in advance and knows the choices man will make… some for good and some for evil and some in between and thus gives a different animal characterizing each person… thus, tracing the “white” pure line Messiah would come through as the lamb of God coming from a house of sheep which is how Enoch describes the 12 tribes of Israel.
Isaac had two sons, and we see Esau described as a black wild pig showing the rebellion of his heart whereas Jacob is described as a white sheep who brings forth 12 sheep of his own. Verse 21 says when those sheep grew up they delivered one of themselves, namely Joseph, to the asses (which are the Ishmaelites)… and the asses (Ishmalites) delivered that sheep Joseph to the wolves (Egyptians).
It is interesting to note, that Esau ended up marrying one of the daughters of Ishmael who was originally described as a wild ass in Enoch, and as Enoch was written first, this is just how the Torah describes Esau in Genesis 16:12.
Now fast-forward 210 years the descendants of Israel, and Ishmael and Esau, and the Egyptians when God sends Moses to deliver the children of Israel there were many that realized that YHVH, the God of the Israelites, was the only one true God, and so the Bible describes God calling-out and leading a mixed multitude with Israel… as many converted and stood together at the base of Mount Sinai as one assembly of Believers in YHVH with the Israelites (sheep), Egyptians (wolves), and the intermarried children of Esau and Ishmael (wild asses) as Jethro priest of Midian was the descendant of Esau who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses. This is a prophetic picture of the last days we are in also as God is calling out all who will hear His voice from the Sheep, and the Wolves, and the wild asses… to be a Called-out Assembly of Believers from all backgrounds and walks of life to return to his Covenant and to walk in his ways and to be one with his people Israel!
This is why I felt impressed to call our humble assembly just that… and to welcome all people from all nations and all backgrounds to unite as one family in the spirit of Truth and Love with God as our Father, Deliverer, and Guide through our time in the wilderness sojourn together before Messiah’s return, and the millennial kingdom is set up!
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